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AAUP leader cites threats to academic freedom

Roger W. Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors
1:45 p.m., Feb. 24, 2006--Roger W. Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), referred to the Solomon Amendment as “extortion” at a faculty forum Wednesday.

Bowen said the federal law, which allows the secretary of defense to deny grants to universities barring military recruitment, could jeopardize $35 billion in funding to academic institutions. “This is a real threat. It is intentionally punitive. It is obviously undemocratic,” he said.

A Japan scholar and former president of the State University of New York at New Paltz, Bowen rallied faculty against those whom he said oppose current academic freedoms.

Bowen said the Solomon Amendment compromises institutional autonomy and academic freedom. AAUP has filed an amicus brief supporting the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) in Rumsfeld v. FAIR, the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case centering on the Solomon Amendment.

Bowen also criticized David Horowitz, a Marxist-turned-neoconservative affiliated with Campus Watch, Students for Academic Freedom and FrontPageMag.com. “Horowitz sees the solution to ideological imbalance as [limiting] academic freedom,” Bowen said.

He said Horowitz invokes alleged ideological imbalance in college classrooms as an excuse for him to decide “who may teach, what they may teach and how it may be taught.”

Bowen also flayed the practice of appointing nonacademics with political ties to academic administrations. “It's not what you know, it's who you know that figures into these appointments,'' Bowen said.

Bowen: “The barbarians are inside the gates, and, in many cases, they are issuing the orders.”
Bowen said academic freedom and institutional autonomy could be vulnerable on several fronts--federal oversight over accreditation; resolutions centering on ideological balance on campuses; corporate sponsorship of research; government oversight of academic departments, including Middle Eastern studies; lack of protection for university employees in the health care system; the percentage of campus budgets spent on athletics; and the view of college campuses as another part of the economy.

Bowen told UD faculty that when universities are run as parts of the corporate world faculty members sometimes will be considered “whiners,” students will be considered “consumers” and staff may be considered expendable.

“The barbarians are inside the gates, and, in many cases, they are issuing the orders,” he said.

He recommended faculty write letters to newspapers centering on academic freedom and autonomy, submit op-ed pieces to newspapers and spend five to15 minutes at the beginning of each semester explaining AAUP philosophy on academic freedom and institutional autonomy to students in their classes. “That is something we are empowered to do, we have the ability to do, and we ought to be doing,” Bowen said.

The UD chapter of the AAUP and the Office of the Provost sponsored the forum.

Article by Kathy Canavan
Photos by Duane Perry

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